6 Parenting Tips For a Messy Room

What To Do About a Messy Room

Nothing is more frustrating to a parent than a child’s messy room.  Teaching kids to clean their room is such an important tool for navigating our relationship with our child.  I see the process of helping a child learn to manage their room as a life skill that will be with them into adulthood.

Before you begin to discipline your child, it would be helpful to consider the following:

  • Who needs this room clean now?  Usually, it’s the parent and not the child, so realizing the parent has a high level of motivation and energy toward getting the room clean, and the child may not have any interest at all in getting the room clean.  Being clear and understanding your child’s perspective can drive the communication more effectively.
  • Are your expectations age appropriate? Because little children love to help, we often expect them to be able to keep their room clean.  But really, it’s a big responsibility and a big chore, and it takes time for them to learn.
  • Is there a consistent expectation for your child?  So often, we do not consistently implement a message about the room.  Kids work best with clear directions, personal attention and a consistent message from us as to what we want them to do.  Along with this is appreciation for the contribution their helpfulness makes to you and the family environment.

So now that you have thought more about it…let’s jump in with some hands-on advice.  In this article, and in more detail on the accompanying MP3, you will learn 6 specific ways you can help your child learn responsibility for cleaning their room.

  1. Look at the messy room as an opportunity to parent each of your kids more effectively

  2. Give only 1 small task or chore (responsibility) to a toddler

  3. Be willing to help as is age appropriate – giving more responsibility as they get older

  4. Break the task into smaller steps…”Pick up everything that is red first” or “pick up all the toys first”

  5. Have a Saturday “Room Cleaning” day for the messy room

  6. Create an agreement to provide a “Room Check” with your older child.

I have recorded a 3.5 minute Parenting Pep Talk with more details about each of these 6 tips for Getting Their Messy Room Clean.

If you would like to learn how to deal with power struggles, take my Video Class on Dealing with Power Struggles.

For more ideas, I would also suggest you take my Positive Parenting Teleclass on MP3.

I strongly encourage you to respond to this post and to share your ideas for helping kids keep their room clean. Not every idea works for every child, so the more discussion about this, the more helpful it can be.  I also encourage you to share your successes and challenges with these ideas.

Messy Room No More!

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  1. kimberly whisenant Says Reply

    my 6 year old daughter enjoys doing chores as long as they are with me such as when i am doing laundry, dishes, mopping. but she abouslty hates cleaning her room. even if i help. her father can not stand a messy house including the kids room. so i try to get my chores done plus theirs and all goes well until it their room. I intend to take any and all advice and at least try it twice. i always say you wont like it if you dont try it and practice makes perfect so one attempt isnt enough.

  2. Svetlana Says Reply

    I have 2 kids: 18y.o boy and 13y.o girl. Both cleaning and vacuum their rooms because they know if they don’t than soon they will need something from me …
    and they wouldn’t get it. Everything works 50/50. Kids have to know how is important for them to help their parents.

  3. Toby Huston Says Reply

    My son just turned 5, and I’ve wanted his disaster of a room to be picked up and been a demanding parent with no results. However, I did start to use step 4 before even learning about PositiveParenting and it was the only thing that achieved any kind of result. “First pickup all of the cars, then pickup all of the people, now lets do the books”… With such a huge task at hand I even found that doing several was overwhelming to him and I both, so we would go do something else and take the next step cleaning later after some play or sometimes more the next day.
    Mostly his room is a mess because either my wife or I are too busy/tired to spend the time to clean his room with him. That will change.

  4. Sharon Ballantine, Life Coach Says Reply

    Teaching kids how to break down a task that seems to be overwhelming into manageable chunks is a great life skill that will do more than help them to keep their room clean.

    At a certain age however, we have to learn that it is our child’s responsibility and decision on how they want to live. As long as they are not creating an environment that is dangerous to their health, and they know how to clean–and just choose not to–then sometimes we are better off letting them live in their mess. As long as they keep the door shut and the mess inside their space. It then becomes about setting boundaries and having an open conversation with your child about your expectations and listening to their view as well.

    • Jane Says

      I do not know where to start the kids room is so messy that they can not be bothered to tidy it my hubby will not help and I want to tidy it but do not no where to start I tidy it then it’s a message again clothes as LL over the floor toys over the floor CDs games and DVDs there do start hey it’s getting me down and I need help as the kids can not find things like she’s clothes and school stuff to .

  5. Kristen Says Reply

    Are you able to provide a transcript for the calls and all the audio messages you share to your audience? I am Deaf and I have Deaf children, however, I would like to receive the same kind of information and help that others get. Thank you for your hard work and for your positive parenting wisdom, I look forward to receiving a response from you!

  6. Patricia Russell Says Reply

    Tips are effective. Thanks for discussing your BEST messy room washing tips.

  7. Julia Baker Says Reply

    Excellent tips and effective as well.

  8. Samuel Stanton Says Reply

    I’d have to agree that each child should be given at least 1 simple task each. They will learn to help one another.

  9. Saroja B Says Reply

    I do agree with the point that keeping the messy room clean is the task of the parent. To grow the responsibility within the child needs patience. We must be patient with the kids till they realize the beauty of having their room clean and tidy themselves. Thank you for sharing the great advice.

  10. Havana Says Reply

    Your tips are awesome but some times not working.Children now a days are so much intelligent than we used to be. So, sometimes we are outsmarted by them while we train them for something. They do completely different thing from our expectation. This is reality on my case for sure.
    But i love my child.

    Anyway good writing.

  11. Abigail Patterson Says Reply

    Hello, Deborah, thank you for posting this insightful article!

    Reading through this, I’m reminded of my own toddler; there are certain things that she loves to help with, and the funny thing is, one of those is laundry. She loves carrying laundry and launching it into the washing machine, then helping turn and push the dials to start it. Haha!

    However, the thing that she seems to like the least is helping make the bed, but even then, there are ways to help her enjoy the process. Often, reminding her that once the bed is made that she has something fun to do is all that it takes to help her get motivated into helping me out. Then all I have to do is direct her to a specific task (usually handing me the pillows to put on the bed). Toddlers can only process so many things at one time, and there are so many things that they want to do, things that their own minds process as being more important, that their priorities and ours…don’t match. 🙂 lol

    Thanks so much for the article. More people need to understand the importance of understanding our children!

  12. Seema Mehta Says Reply

    Deborah, thanks for sharing this blog. As a parent I have always been confused what level of expectation to keep from my child. I have kept a day aside just for clearing the mess and tidying. In the past 5 weeks, I have observed drastic change in my child’s room after I made it a routine to check.

  13. parenting Says Reply

    Excellent tips and effective as well

  14. Denise Gibson Says Reply

    I do agree with the point that keeping the messy room clean is the task of the parent. These are all excellent tips and effective as well.I have kept a day aside just for clearing the mess and tidying. Thanks for the sharing this over here.

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